Trails in Northern California

Trails in Northern California

Leave No Trace!

Visit desovw.org for more information about Desolation Wilderness. Visit Recreation.gov or call 1- 877-444-6777 to make park reservations. Visit Campfire Permits to get a permit online. More about Leave No Trace principles.

August 16, 2018

Winnemucca, Round Top and Fourth of July Lakes Aug 2018

Fourth of July Lake as we entered the bowl.

As luck had it, we hit the Winnemucca-Round Top Lakes Loop trail in July/August when wildflowers were in full bloom, making this a most colorful hike! 

Late July and early August were the wildflower extravaganza on the east hike up from Woods Lake to Winnemucca and then Round Top Lake.  
Details:  Either can be done as day hikes, although it depends on your fitness of course, and your ability to acclimate to elevation.  We started at 8200' elevation and climbed to over 9400'. Both of my hikes started at the Woods Lake Trailhead, with the short one as a loop and the longer trip as an out and back.


Distance: With some additional exploration, we hiked about 14 1/2 miles on our trip to Fourth of July Lake.  The Round Top loop was about 6 1/2 miles with a little exploration beyond Round Top Lake, toward Fourth of July Lake, to help plan my annual backpacking trip with one of my grandsons the next week. Both trips were rewarding and fun thanks to the flowers, and the snow banks here and there at the higher elevations.
Elevations: 9419 was the highest recorded on both hikes, but we estimated about + 50-75 on our boulder scrambling. 2864 ft elevation changes recorded on Fourth of July Lake trip; 1325" recorded on Round Top Lake hike.
Parking:  It costs $5 cash in an envelope per day for both day trip and per day for a full backpacking stay. We parked at Woods Lake Parking.
Advisories: 

  • There is a restroom in the parking area.  It is decent sized and you can park along the road if it is full.  
  • There is water available from creeks (bring your purifier) and the lakes. 
  • No poison oak.  
  • Not suitable for strollers but we saw happy kids on the loop day hike, and yes, even backpacking kids!
  • Many campsites do not have any close access to water, but more disappointing was the lack of any lake view.
  • Popular site so getting a "wilderness/solitude" experience is less likely.
  • No quad maps were available.  I expected to get one for my grandson to both educate him and to keep as memorabilia of our trip.

Backpacking permits must be picked up at the Carson Pass Information Station, manned mostly by volunteers, on the first day of your trip.  I confess, this system is poor. "First come-first serve", right at the cabin, not at the destination.  They assign campsites.  Groups were divided all over each destination, rather than grouped together, and my grandchild and I had to break camp and move three times over 5 days.  No online reservations from Mokulumne Wilderness.  Avoid 4th of July site 4.  No tent site there really.  It was rocky with no flat tent area provided.  That far back in I cannot imagine who would want to use it.  It is also far from the water with no view of the lake.  It is the last case scenario camp to take.  Two groups offered us sites for our two nights there so we accepted them with love and appreciation. 
4th of July Lake has sandy beaches!
There wasn't a fee for the permit on the bright side.
Day permits are not required.
Fire Permits required for use of any campstove etc. 
Others have posted tracks you can use on AllTrails, but here are links to mine to view the maps:
Fourth of July Lake
Winnemucca and Round Top Lakes Loop

It was smokey due to forest fires around CA, but there were rivers of color along the hike down into the Fourth of July Lake bowl that stood as tall as my preteen grandson!.
I loved the hikes.  I chose to go clockwise both times, personal preference, although most people choose counter clockwise.  We spent 5 days and 4 nights.  

July 17, 2018

Mount Rose Summit 10,785' in Humbolt-Toiyabe NF



 A fantastic training hike for Mount Whitney!

360 degree views from the summit.

Hiking Distance: about 10.5 miles  An out and back hike.
Elevation:  The trailhead is at 8915 feet.  The summit is 10,785 feet.
Difficulty: Considered moderate.  No boulder scrambles or creeks with fallen tree crossings although there were wet areas and a creek that was shallow. I loved hiking poles on this one. For some the elevation may make it difficult.
Location of Trailhead: There is a large paved and well marked parking lot on Mount Rose Highway near Incline Village. 
Good to know: No fees.  Dogs allowed. Restrooms recently reported to be closed. Bug repellent is good to have handy.  Wildflowers blooming even at the summit in July! Some water available but suggest purifying all water. No permit required for day hikes.

Galena Falls, the destination for many hikers on this trail.

The trail was easy to follow.
When you head through this lush section, you might want your bug repellent!
Wildflowers in every color were abundant this time of year and lifted my spirits! After the valley meadows, the trail heads into forest and becomes more of a steep workout.
It can feel pretty hot through this short stretch, but there will be more
shade to rest in  up the Mount Rose Summit trail as you persevere!

On either side of the Mount Rose trail you begin to get 
views hinting at the summit's offerings.
The trail leaves the shady forest and leads upward above treeline.

Windswept and cold, the trail lead me to the summit first where indeed the views are satisfying and photogenic!  Across the saddle is the lesser summit with a cozy windbreak and more of the gorgeous views of pretty much everywhere!


FYI There wasn't a summit register.
More Tahoe hikes that may interest you

Tahoe National Forest
2014-07
6+ miles round trip
Moderate (kids do it though)
2012-12
Snowshoeing PCT at Donner’s Castle Pass
9.3 mile loop
Strenuous
2012-12
3.5 miles
Easy
2014-07
1+ miles with many lakes and options
Easy to Moderate
2011-06
5+ miles this trip
Variable
2013-07
Whatever you choose-4 around the lake
Easy, paved most of the way.
2012-11
1 mile each location
Easy
2012-09
Pioneer Trail near Spaulding Lake
Up to 25 miles; I did 5.7
Easy to Moderate
2012-10
Sierra Discovery Trail with Bear Creek Falls
½ mile est. interpretive loop and picnic area
Easy
2012-09
.7 mile loop
Stroller and WC friendly
2012-09
3+ miles out and back
Easy - Moderate
2012-08
6 miles round trip
Easy
2012-08
4 miles
Easy - Moderate
2014-05
Grouse Ridge Glacier Lake Trail Milk and Downey Lakes are closest.
.5+ many optional miles to many lakes, all pretty close to each other!
Easy to Moderate Car camping available near the trailhead.  Also walk in camps at Carr-Feeley TH
2018-07
10.5 miles round trip
Moderate to Strenuous

Happy Trails!

July 16, 2016

August 2018 update Grouse Ridge Lookout ~ and Trail Head

Experience miles of Grouse Ridge trails for backpacking, hiking, fishing, wildlife viewing, and swimming in many of the lakes.  

And take in the views!

One view from the ridge.  I bet if you zoom you could see Mt Shasta too.
Distance: 2 mi round trip or many more.
Difficulty:  Easy to moderate, according to your choice.  I have been comfortable taking an outdoorsy child who can hike at least 1 mile in downhill and then 1 mile out uphill. They would enjoy the lakes.  There may be some tree falls to climb over or go around, and strollers are out of the question. It is an excellent place for backpacking with youngsters.
Driving Directions:  Get onto Highway 20 West from Highway 80 west of Donner.  Turn right onto Bowman Lake Road, cross the South Fork Yuba River and turn right on Grouse Ridge Road (Forest Road 14). It is 6 miles. 
Advisories:  

  • The road is dirt and we were happy to note that with a large lumber operation going on, the road is much improved most of the way.  There are wider spots to let lumber trucks get by. 
  • Camping and hiking are free, no permit required.  In the fall be sure to check hunting season dates. 
  • July 2018 cell service: Just before you enter the campground area, the dirt road turns to the left.  There is a large opening with a small u-shaped drive that some use for overflow camping.  We found that if we pull over there we get 1 bar on AT&T, enough to text and make a call! 
  • Much of the year, cows live in the lake s basin. We woke up to gently mooing and cow bells in July.  In August we didn't see any of the cows. The ones who visited were friendly anyway!
One campsite guest at Milk Lake in Grouse Ridge, California, July 2018



This is the link to the forestry website.

July 2018 There were wildflowers in full bloom and large meadows of color to enjoy.  We encountered that rain that wasn't forecast.  Always go prepared for any weather.
Aug 2018  Our three day trip was excellent, as was our trip last month.  We hiked to Carr, Feeley, Island, Round, Long and Penner Lakes.  The weather was in the 70's and the skies were clear!  It was a red flag warning for smoke so we were prepared for less pleasant conditions, but the views were just as far and gorgeous as I have seen!
Round Lake in Grouse Ridge, California, August 2018

For my son's first backpacking trip, we toured
the Grouse Ridge area.  We started out with a warm up hike
to the old lookout, built in 1923.  Surprise!
It is being refurbished to offer as a rental.  In Aug 2018 we saw lights and I would use it. I came home and looked for links to rent it but was not successful.  Here is the link to the forestry website that would have information when it becomes available. Lookout rentals
In good weather, visitors might see all the way to Mt Shasta.
We did!
Grouse Ridge Lookout
To hike to the lookout, walk south up the dirt road that forks
uphill off of the dirt road to the trailhead parking.
There is a closed gate without parking,
so plan snacks and water for a mile or so
uphill along the road, and the return hike down.
Trust me ~ it is worth the extra time and effort!
Wildflowers are blooming in profusion, so get up there soon if you enjoy these seasonal shows!
We had the pleasure of some snow blankets to play on,
although who knows how long they will last.

Mt Shasta is back there if you can zoom, though it is just a blur, you can tell it is the snowy peak.
Views from Grouse Ridge Lookout.
After exploring and taking photos, we headed down
to start our backpacking trip. Near the trailhead,
there are car camping spots that have been greatly improved, and
are well marked with tables, campfire rings, and level tent spots.
Widow maker's truck hikers pass near the start of the trail.  Each trip, I photograph the truck, which used to be red!  Moral of the story:  Do not park under a dead tree! The truck was still there this week, August 2018.
Since my son was out for a first backpacking trip,
and most likely over-packed,
we needed a shorter hike.  Just hiking to Milk Lake
to set camp seemed great, then we could hike
to many other lakes without all the gear.
A view of Milk Lake from the use trail,
breaking off from the main trail at the tree fall.  
We missed this sign.
A tree has fallen that blocks the old trail to Milk Lake.
 July 2018: the trail to the lake is easier
to see. It is apparently well used and heads next to the sign posted in this photo.
Milk Lake from the north hillside.  That little patch of snow is under the trailhead.
Grouse Ridge Trails are well marked as a rule.
We weren't thrilled to keep going
not having seen Milk Lake, but we bravely marched onward.
The trails are mostly shady, and there are enough tree falls to rest here and there.
Round Lake, Grouse Ridge Lakes Basin, California
We set camp near Long Lake, but Round Lake
would be fantastic.  We spent time there swimming
wishing for our fishing poles.

The south side of Long Lake is pretty shallow and marshy,
but the up side is it is warmer water for swimming and we enjoyed it.
We packed up to hike out, but the smoke
we had noticed while swimming seemed thicker.

The wildflowers were still a treat, but you can see the grey
skies moving in.  My throat was scratchy.
On our way in we could see Mt Shasta, and on our way out,
we could hardly see the close mountain ranges.
This map shows Carr-Feeley TH and many of the lakes in the basin.
Print it and take an 8.5" x 11" pocket map to keep with you.

Here are some other trails in Tahoe National Forest:
Tahoe National Forest
2014-07
6+ miles
Moderate (kids do it though)
2012-12
Snowshoeing PCT at Donner’s Castle Pass
9.3 mile loop
Strenuous
2012-12
3.5 miles
Easy
2014-07
1+ miles with many lakes and options
Easy to Moderate
2011-06
5+ miles this trip
Variable
2013-07
Whatever you choose
Easy
2012-11
1 mile each location
Easy
2012-09
Pioneer Trail near Spaulding Lake
Up to 25 miles; I did 5.7
Easy to Moderate
2012-10
Sierra Discovery Trail with Bear Creek Falls
½ mile est. interpretive loop & picnic area
Easy
2012-09
.7 mile
Stroller and WC friendly
2012-09
3+ miles
Easy - Moderate
2012-08
6 miles
Easy
2012-08
4 miles
Easy - Moderate
2014-05
Grouse Ridge Glacier Lake Trail Milk and Downey Lakes are closest.
.5+ many optional miles to many lakes, all pretty close to each other!
Easy to Moderate Car camping available near the trailhead.
Thank you for stopping by!  Happy Trails.
update July 16, 2016
Updated July 2018: notes about wildflowers, moving the template to the top, added a weather forecast link, note on Milk Lake trail improvement, cell reception and removed old truck notes.